2021 NFL Draft: Denver Broncos, New York Jets on odd trajectories

The Denver Broncos and New York Jets are on odd 2021 NFL Draft trajectories.

Thursday Night Football between the Denver Broncos and New York Jets is not exactly must-see TV, but we all wanted football back, right?

This game oddly has some very intriguing 2021 NFL Draft implications for both teams, at least for the short term.

The first quarter of the season is about to be in the books for both of these squads. The Denver Broncos anticipated a bit more winning while they were growing and the New York Jets have been expecting a breakthrough from young quarterback Sam Darnold.

Neither of those things have happened for either team, and for varying reasons.

Heading into their Thursday night matchup, the Broncos and Jets are projected for the fourth- and fifth overall picks in the 2021 NFL Draft respectively, based on the strength of schedule of their 2020 opponents.

Unlike a determining factor for the playoffs, let’s say the Jets beat the Broncos in this game but ultimately finish with the same overall record, the outcome of this particular game does not determine their 2021 NFL Draft standing. It would end up being their strength of schedule.

Heading into the 2020 season, the Jets looked poised to be a team competing for a top 5-10 overall 2021 NFL Draft selection. Injuries only amplified that.

The Broncos had enough talent that many felt they could improve upon their 2019 record of 7-9, especially if Drew Lock progressed. The problem is, the Broncos currently have most of their best players on injured reserve or on the injury report in some fashion.

Lost for the season are players like Von Miller, Courtland Sutton, Jurrell Casey, and lost for a significant time are players like AJ Bouye, Phillip Lindsay, and quarterback Drew Lock.

Those injuries are simply unsustainable for any team, not to mention the Broncos had starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James opt-out before the season.

How are John Elway and Joe Douglas going to manage these situations with 12 games yet to play? Will they be around as GMs in 2021 to find out?

The Denver Broncos’ situation

If the Broncos lose this game to the New York Jets, they will be in a very weird spot for at least a little while.

The Broncos started 0-4 in 2019 and managed to finish 7-9. There’s no telling what the rest of this season will bring, especially considering the team is expected to get back players like Lock, Bouye, Phillip Lindsay, Dre’Mont Jones, and others before the end of the 2020 season.

Let’s just say for the moment, however, that the Broncos somehow continue losing games and wind up with the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. How would they pass on a guy like Trevor Lawrence in that case?

If the circumstances dictate the Denver Broncos lose their way to the number one overall pick, you can’t pass on a prospect like Lawrence and it would be fascinating to see if Vic Fangio would stick around as the team’s head coach in that case.

Even if the Broncos lose to the Jets, the likelihood is that the presence of Drew Lock over the course of the final 11 or 12 games of the season will be enough to keep the team out of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.

But you never know.

The New York Jets’ situation

The Jets are into their third year of the Sam Darnold era, and still he’s just the same age as 2020 top pick Joe Burrow.

Darnold is a young guy and needed plenty of seasoning coming out of USC, but the Jets have unfortunately hindered his growth with terrible offensive line play and terrible skill position talent compared to the rest of the NFL.

It has barely gotten any better in 2020, though Mekhi Becton is tremendous at the left tackle position.

No matter if the Jets win or lose this game against the Broncos, the likelihood based on their roster and health is that they will be vying for the top overall pick throughout most of the year.

If that’s the case, it would be shocking if they didn’t have a head coaching change and with that a quarterback change.

Darnold would be a trade candidate and could benefit greatly from that, but the Jets — like the Broncos — can’t afford to pass on Trevor Lawrence if they get that opportunity. He’s too good and Darnold hasn’t progressed.

The winner of this Thursday night game may not have any 2020 playoff relevance, but the current coaches and quarterbacks of both teams are both hurt badly by a loss as well.

How do John Elway and Joe Douglas evaluate these rosters given the weird circumstances of the 2020 offseason and the injuries their teams have suffered?

It’s not an enviable position to be in for either executive.